The Best Thing I Have Ever Put In My Mouth: Dining in Paris
If you ever happen to be on the rue des matyrs (mentioned in Emile Zola's Nana as the location of Laure's three fanc dinner for low class courtesans and drag kings) go to 33 rue de navarin home of the Tiger Restaurant. The Tiger specializes in seafood, although there are other things on the menu including goose pate and chicken in lemon sauce.
Running the Tiger is Madame Tiger, a woman in her late forties with half glasses, bright red hair, and a friendly manner. I picked the tiger because it seemed less crowded, and with my french being shaky I wanted to embarass myself in front of the least amount of french people possible. I took a chair outside. (I was told eating outside can often cost twice as much-this is true of cafes and restaurants in many in the more tourist-y areas like outside the Musee D'orsay, but it is not true of all restaurants and if the price is higher for outside it is clearly labeled on the menu.) Madame Tiger remained inside manning the desserts, but she spoke to me through the window. Despite my limited french and her utter lack of english, we managed to talk. We chatted about the election and September 11th. Like many, she wanted to know if I was in NYC during 9/11. I told her I was and the conversation stopped there as I couldn't think of how to describe the event in french.
A young American couple came by and were trying to translate the posted menu. I explained to them that the Tiger had menus in English available upon request. ( Interesting quality considering that no one working at the Tiger including the tall, thin, chain smoking cook spoke a word of English.) They thanked me and asked for a table. After they received the menu, they asked me how to say "We don't eat fish" in french. I tried to teach them, but finally they asked me to say it. I told Madame Tiger "You (pl) don't eat fish." She smiled and nodded. She came out and pointed out other items on the menu, but they thanked her and left.
It took about five minutes for me to realized that I should have said "ils" instead of "vous", but Madame Tiger didn't seem to mind and she understood what I meant. At the end of dinner, she brought me tarte tatin unasked for and uncharged. If the Lord Almighty were to get his angels to pick apples and bake a tarte tatin and then carefully place it upon your tongue like a sacrament, it might taste this good. Possibly. She said it was simply apples, sugar, butter, and cinnamon, but it was divine. If you can go to the Tiger and ask for half a bottle of Cote du Rhone and tarte tatin-it costs as much as dinner other places, but it is worth it.
I went home to my room. Henri had left a message, but I pretended not to see it and I went to sleep full of butter and wine.
More Fun With Crazy Artists
The following morning my plan was to go to the Musee D'orsay, but once I got out of the metro I was distracted and started to walk towards Place de la Concorde where I saw the Champs Elysees. I then decided to walk through Les Jardins des Tuileries towards the Louvre. ( The Tuileries are not very exciting especially when compared to Les Jardins Luxembourg, but it is certainly the most impressive approach to the Louvre.)
The artists who hang on the steps to the Louvre are much more aggressive than the artists at Sacre Coeur. They have no qualms about grabbing single girls by the arm and attempting to physically pull them into sitting for portraits. By this time I was getting annoyed with having to fend off men every time I went to a national monument, and I still had a lot of monuments to go. After I managed to extricate myself from the grip of a particularly aggressive art student from Morrocco, I made my way to the main square of the Louvre and sat for a few minutes. I could have gone in then, but I wanted to spend a whole day in the Louvre.
Things You Can Do Without:
Palais Royale
I went out a side entrance and decided to walk on Rue de Rivoli as many friends had told me to go there. I was a little suprised by the giant Sephora store I found there. The large department stores and little tourist shops didn't entice me, so I decided to find the Palais Royale. I had read about it in The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After, and somehow in my mind it had become a large majestic palace worthy of attempting to compete with the Louvre. But once I got there, it was rather boring compared even to "lesser" buildings like the Bourse.
St.Eustache and Les Halles
Since I was already in the neighborhood, I decided to go to St. Eustache. Unlike Notre Dame and even Sacre Coeur, St Eustache is relatively empty most of time. The visitors actually respect the signs asking for silence without having to be reminded, but as a result there is almost no staff (unlike at Notre Dame which is bustling with guides and guards). Richelieu ( the villian of Three Musketeers) and Moliere are buried there. There is a lovely stained glass window of a young king whose feet do not touch the ground as he sits on his throne. Instead he sits, crown on head, feet dangling above the floor.
But at St. Eustache I saw the beginnings of attempts at "modernization." In the midst of this sixteenth century cathedral, there was a Keith Haring triptych in buffed steel. In California or even in some areas of NY, I would have accepted it, but under the high vaulted ceilings and stained glass, it was revolting. Why was it there? To try to be "hip" and "cool"? It reminded me of the scene between the father and john cusack in Better Off Dead when the father is reading some book on slang from the late sixties. "Hey, you're really bringing me over, dude." "That's down, dad. Instead of being hip, it just reaffirms the suspicion of utter cluelessness.
Unfortunately many of the paintings were being restored. They appeared to be under patches of duct tape, giving them a kind of Modrian like appearance. I left and decided to find some place to eat.
Damsel in Distress
Before I could find a cafe, I noticed an old man with stained pants was following me. I tried to lose him and make my displeasure absolute, but just as soon as I thought I had lost him, I would see him again. I realized that in NY I would have simply said "fuck off" and felt better about it (in fact I have had done exactly that on occassion) and much of the anxiety I felt was about not knowing how to say it. Finally, I headed back to the Louvre thinking he wouldn't attack me ina square with surveillance and guards.
As I crossed the square he continued to follow me, only closer, maybe about five or six feet away. Originally I was going to go up to the guards, but considering how close he was I ran up a man working in the yard. I explained in french that I needed his help and then switched to english explaining that an older man was following me. Meanwhile the man, who I pointed out, kept walking. He walked right past me and out a side entrance as if he had merely been strolling in the neighborhood. The guard talked to me in english and french telling me not to be afraid. "Don't be scared. It 's ok. The square is on video. There are guards here. You are safe. He didn't try to touch you? No just followed you, yes? It's ok. He just thought you were pretty and wanted to get close. You are fine now. You are safe." Finally, I calmed down. I was thanking him and about to say good-bye when he said, "Are you visiting the Louvre today? I get off of work in about an hour and I'd love to give you a tour. What's your name?"
Kiss of the Dragon
I managed to get out of the Louvre courtyard, by this time I'm starving and in deep need of a glass of wine. I walk down Rue de L'Opera, which is gorgeous,. More to come...

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